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Welcoming the Dark and the Light with Samhain and Beltane


While October 31 marks Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, it is November 1 on which Pagans and Wiccans welcome Samhain (SOW-en), which means "summer's end" and is the Celtic New Year. The Celtic day starts at night (hence the eve of October 31). It is the dark from which things begin, the child forming in the womb or the seed readying itself to sprout from the soil. Some Wiccans and Pagans see Samhain as the most magically potent times of the year.

Working Magic at Samhain

For years I have volunteered at a non-secular Halloween event for the public that starts with a costumed character talking about the holiday's Celtic origins and ends with a Wiccan or Pagan explaining that Witches are ordinary people who happen to work magic. This final station is a bit magical as individuals stand in a circle around a campfire set in the woods at night.

After explaining a bit about the daily practices of Wicca and Paganism, I would tell folks that we would work a bit of magic right then and there. I'd put on some Celtic music and encourage everyone to walk, skip, or dance around the fire. We'd start out traveling deosil, or clockwise, around the blaze. While moving, I'd tell them to think of something that they wanted to see manifest in their lives by the spring. In 2006, I remember thinking how I was truly ready to have someone in my life with whom to share a loving relationship.

After once or twice around the campfire, I'd call out that everyone should turn around and now travel counterclockwise, or widdershins. (Yes, there was always a second or two or chaos that got everyone laughing.) I explained that we moved in this direction to banish or get rid of the things in our life that prevented us to have the space we needed to welcome in the stuff we wanted. It didn't matter what it was that we desired, we had to do some mental housekeeping. For me, this meant realizing that I couldn't continue to focus most of my energy on helping my ailing mother. Although it would be hard, I needed to do the things that would improve my life.

Next, to create a bit more chaos (because isn't that what change is?), I had everyone travel around the campfire clockwise to add a bit more power to our wishes. I repeated this routine a total of twenty or so times over the two or three night of the event. I was not only working with my energy but that of the crowd working their magic.

The Light Half of the Year and Beltane

May 1 is welcomed with Beltane, or the beginning of the season of growth. However, the magic I'd worked at Samhain didn't wait for Beltane to begin. A week after Samhain, an acquaintance who was overwhelmed with the demands of her widowed father, thought about what I had been going through and offered me a room to stay in for as long as I needed.

In the spring of 2007, I started a walking routine and then found a diet book compatible with my mindset. One of the diet books suggestions was to do something that I kept holding off doing until I reached my goal weight. So, I joined an online dating service. A few days after Beltane I was matched with a man with whom I shared many values. I learned that just a month after my magick-making he ended a ten-year relationship that had been sour for a few years. By June, we met and started dating; in 2010 we married.

Whether or not you are Wiccan or Pagan, and even if you can't set a fire in your backyard and gather a hundred people to join you in dancing around its flames, you can light candles this Samhain and put on some music that gets you dancing around your home, putting a spell on yourself, a wish for what you wish to see in the spring.